Dog-owners live longer, say Swedish scientists

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"The results showed that single dog owners had a 33% reduction in risk of death and 11% reduction in risk of heart attack", compared to single non-owners, said lead study author Mwenya Mubanga of Uppsala University. It's possible that people who choose to own dogs may simply be more active and in better health to begin with, say the authors. In addition, the single adults with dogs were 36 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

The protective effect was especially prominent for people living alone, who have been found to have a higher risk for early death than those who live with other people.

"Another interesting finding was that owners to dogs from breed groups originally bred for hunting were most protected".

The scientists included more than 3.4 million individuals who didn't have any cardiovascular diseases before 2001 after linking together seven different national data sources, including two dog ownership registers. For starters, we do know that having a dog means (well, requires) a higher level of physical activity - basically acting as a furry personal trainer that ensures you get your steps in taking it on walks and refilling its food and water bowl.

A new study out of Sweden used data from 3.4 million people in their national registries between the ages of 40 and 80 and found that those who had a dog had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those who were dog-free.

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The risk of death fell by 11 percent in households with multiple people. The study excluded the very young due to their low likelihood of developing CVD and the very elderly for their low odds of owning a dog. "In the Swedish system, we can trace people from birth to death", epidemiologist Tove Fall told Newsweek.

There's no particular reason to think the results would differ in the United States; it would really depend on how similar Americans' attitudes and behaviors as dog parents are to Swedish pet owners.

Fall believes that while their study provides strong evidence for the health benefits of dogs, their work is not done yet, since it does not answer why dogs achieve these results or why specific breeds seems to offer more protection. Just over 13% had pet dogs.

While the study didn't look at why dogs are good for people's health and longevity, researchers suggested reasons ranging from increased physical activity, social contact and reduced stress and even a boost microbiome diversitythat essential for good health.

Dog owners were more likely to be younger than non-owners, Fall and colleagues wrote, and were more likely to live in rural areas.

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